Pominville sparks three-goal surge, Sabres top Panthers

BUFFALO, New York (AP) — Their character questioned, their
playoff hopes dwindling and facing a two-goal deficit, Jason
Pominville and the Buffalo Sabres showed they’ve still got some
fight left in them.

Pominville had a goal and two assists in a 2:07 span of the
third period in the Sabres’ 5-3 comeback victory over the
suddenly slumping Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

“We had to be desperate. This is that time of year,” Pominville
said. “For us to dig deep and get a win, it was a game we had to
win, there was no tomorrow.”

Tim Connolly, who capped the surge with the go-ahead goal,
Clarke MacArthur, Craig Rivet and Maxim Afinogenov also scored
for Buffalo, which snapped an 0-3-1 skid and won for only the
second time in eight games (2-5-1). With 78 points and nine
games left, Buffalo remains in 10th place in the Eastern
Conference standings, but moved within five points of
eighth-place Montreal.

The ninth-place Panthers not only squandered a two-goal lead,
but also an opportunity to move into a tie with idle Montreal.

Brett McLean had a goal and assist, and Richard Zednik and
Michael Frolik also scored for Florida, 1-4-3 in its past eight

“I don’t have an answer,” Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said.
“Obviously, we picked a bad time of the year to start blowing
leads. We have to find a way to remedy that.”

There’s even better news for the Sabres on the horizon. Starting
goalie Ryan Miller is scheduled to return to face Toronto on
Friday night after missing 13 games with sprained left ankle.

Turns out Miller wasn’t needed against Florida. Third-stringer
Mikael Tellqvist made 30 saves to earn his first win in only his
second start for Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with
Phoenix earlier this month.

Though new to Buffalo, Tellqvist was notably stung by the
criticism the Sabres have faced during a their skid.

“Everybody’s been writing us off and telling us we have no
character in this room and blah, blah, blah,” Tellqvist said,
referring to the Sabres’ four-goal third period. “This just
shows everybody that we really want to win.”

READ ALSO:  Toronto Marlboros win OHL Cup 5-3 for all-Ontario minor midget championship

The momentum distinctly changed shortly after Frolik scored a
fluke goal – he broke his stick on his shot and the puck caromed
in off Sabres defender Henrik Tallinder – to put Florida up 3-1
early in the third period.

Back came the Sabres. Pominville deflected in Tallinder’s point
shot to cut it to 3-2 at the 6:14 mark. MacArthur tied it 51
seconds later, blasting a shot through the legs of Tomas Vokoun.

Connolly then scored a power-play goal at the 8:21 mark, when
his shot from the left point deflected in off the stick of
Panthers’ defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and past Vokoun.

Afinogenov then added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Panthers coach Peter DeBoer squarely placed the blame on Vokoun.

“We need a big save at a critical time in the third period to
win a game. I don’t think we’ve gotten one lately,” DeBoer said.
“You can’t let (the loss) be devastating. The goalie’s got to
close the door when you’re in that situation. You know what? He

Vokoun finished with 40 saves while making his 11th straight
start. It marked the seventh time – and fourth straight – the
goalie has faced 30 or more shots during that stretch.

Vokoun was nearly lost for words to describe the meltdown.

“This is a tough loss for us. I’m still trying to realize what
happened,” he said.

Zednik experienced a scary moment 5 minutes into the third
period, when teammate Cory Stillman’s shot from left circle
sailed over the net and struck Zednik in the right side of his
face shield. Zednik was cut across the nose by the force of the
shot and immediately skated to the bench, where he was escorted
to the locker room.

Zednik did not require stitches, and returned to the bench a few
minutes later.

The play eerily occurred near the same spot in the right corner
of the Buffalo zone, where Zednik sustained a gruesome neck
injury, when his throat was cut during a collision with former
teammate Olli Jokinen on February 10, 2008.